There have been some memorable players to take the field for teams based in Greater Sydney, regional New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory. Thinking of some New Zealand and Queensland NRL club’s best ever players.
Last Word on Rugby take a look at the best players to play for each of the three Queensland NRL clubs and the sole side from Auckland, New Zealand.
Queensland NRL clubs
These clubs are: Brisbane Broncos, the Gold Coast Titans, and the North Queensland Cowboys based up in Townsville.
#1 Steve Renouf
Renouf was seen as one of the world’s best centres during his NRL career, spent solely at Brisbane from 1988-99. During this time he claimed four premierships, scoring a hat-trick in the 1997 triumph against Cronulla, as he scored a remarkable 142 tries in 183 matches.
This was despite being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 23-years of age but, he continued with his career saying: “Never think that it can stop you from achieving your goals. Just look after it, and you can achieve anything. I looked after it…I knew I had to if I wanted to keep playing football.”
On two occasions, Steve Renouf finished as the Broncos top try-scorer in 1991 and 1992 where he capped the latter campaign off with a 98-metre try in the Grand Final. He was a consistent threat throughout his career, managing four tries in a single match on five different occasions and holds the record, with Darren Smith for the most tries in a season of 23.
He is pictured at top of articles with Steve Walters, brother of Kevin Walters; just announced as the latest Brisbane Broncos head coach.
#2 Wendell Sailor
With so many options for a best-ever player, more than one name is credible for this club. And for opposition sides, it must have been a terrifying sight facing Brisbane in the 1990s as they had Wendell Sailor in their ranks, as well as Renouf.
The formidable winger finished with a record of 122 tries from 196 games at the Broncos between 1993 and 2001. In his first season, appearances were sporadic as the Broncos claimed the premiership but he did enough to be named the club’s Rookie of the year, scoring three tries.
His breakthrough season came in 1994 as he crossed 14 times as Brisbane lost in the semi-finals but, he would become a consistent force over the coming years. From 1997 his try-scoring record read: 15, 18, 6, 18, 18 as he became a key player in the premiership titles of 1997, 1998, and 2001.
For his final season to end in triumph was a fitting farewell for a club legend and he ended with a 100 percent kicking record, in a campaign where he also showed the other side of his game by running for 4,452 metres, more than anyone else.
Sailor would then go on to have a quality rugby union career. He played for 47 times for the Queensland Reds (to match his league career for the QLD Maroons), and he represented the Wallabies on 37 occasions.
Gold Coast Titans
Playing for a side that has struggled at the wrong end of the table for much of his career, Anthony Don has consistently impressed at the Titans. Since his debut in 2013, he has scored 85 tries in 140 games for Gold Coast who have only reached the finals in 2008.
In 2014, 2017 and 2018 he finished the season as the club top try-scorer and last year became their all-time try-scorer surpassing David Mead. This was a personal high point in a disappointing campaign for the club who claimed the wooden spoon recording just four wins.
At 32-years-old, Don may be coming to the end of his career but there is no doubt the esteem he is held in by Titans fans.
Another notable player for the Titans would be Ryan James. His 144 games would make him a centurion and champion of any professional Queensland NRL club.
North Queensland Cowboys
#1 Matthew Scott
The prop enjoyed an impressive career at the Cowboys, with the highlight being their dramatic 2015 Grand Final victory over Brisbane. However, he got off to the worst possible start breaking his leg on his debut in 2004, meaning his first full season of first grade was two years later.
Making up for lost time, he made an impression straight away and earned a Queensland call up for State of Origin after just 14 NRL matches.
After being dropped, he returned to Origin in 2009 and was a mainstay in the Maroons side until his last game in 2016. This was also the case for Australia where he became an important player as he won 20 caps and was part of the 2013 World Cup winning side.
With his leadership skills highlighted with him being named co-captain of the Cowboys alongside Jonathan Thurston in 2011, Scott was also named in the Cowboys 20-year anniversary team four years later.
#2 Johnathan Thurston
Chiefly remembered for his golden point drop-goal which sealed North Queensland’s sole Grand Final triumph in 2015, it was quite possibly the moment which sealed his status as a future Immortal.
He had actually previously won a premiership with Canterbury in 2004 which was at the beginning of an impressive career in which he became the first ever four-time winner of the Dally M Medal for the NRL’s best player and the only player to win three NRL Golden Boot awards.
In a representative capacity, he has shown his undoubted talent when he played in all 24 matches of Queensland’s eight-year State of Origin dynasty and broke the Queensland all-time points scoring record in 2015.
For Australia, Thurston was part of the 2013 World Cup-winning side in a career from 2006-2017, where he also set the all-time points scoring record.
New Zealand Warriors
One of the New Zealand side’s best ever players Vatuvei represented the Warriors from 2004-2017, ending as their all-time try-scorer.
He crossed 152 times in 226 matches for a team that only reached one Grand Final during his spell; losing to Manly. Despite the Warriors only reaching the finals series four times, the winger consistently impressed, becoming the first player in NRL history to score at least 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons from 2006-2105.
His best scoring season came in 2010 when he scored 20 tries in 19 games, as the Warriors finished fifth but lost in the first week of the finals. The one aspect every fan could enjoy was the big winger’s wide smile (see above image).
On his last appearance for the side in 2017, Mt Smart Stadium has temporarily renamed Manu Vatuvei Stadium for the match. In July 2019, he announced his expected retirement at the age of 33.
Of note, another player who could also be profiled would be Stacey Jones. A one-club-player, who played 365 games and scored over 1000 points in the NRL. Inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jones is now a part of the coaching group and looks likely to become a Life Member of the Warriors club.
“Main photo credit”